However hard I try, I will always feel alien and strange. And now I’ve stumbled on a fellow outsider, one who speaks my language without saying a word.
Short on time, busy with finals, projects, work, family, etc., I wondered how I would possibly be able to fit in reading and reviewing Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline for She Reads for May. I knew from the dust jacket copy, it would be a book I would thoroughly enjoy. Instead of reading it, I decided to listen to it.
I downloaded it from Audible to the app on my phone. Sometimes I love technology. I listened while walking and doing my daily routines, you know the kind that don’t require your undivided attention, but must be done — laundry, dishwashing, commuting, etc.
Penobscot Indian Molly Ayers is seventeen and about to age out of the foster care system. She’s in trouble for stealing a library book, a worn, tattered copy of her favorite book, Jane Eyre. Molly is forced to do fifty hours of community service and she will do these hours by helping ninety-one year old Vivian Daly clean out her attic.
As Vivian and Molly begin to go through the trunks, Vivian reveals her story, a story she has never shared with anyone.
Like Molly, Vivian is also an orphan. She was not given the name Vivian at birth. She was born Niamh (pronounced Neev) in Ireland. She came to America with her parents, two brothers, and sister. She lost her family in a fire. Niamh and her mother were the only survivors, b heer mother was mentally unstable and placed in an institution. Naimh is placed on the orphan train, which is leaving New York City bound for rural areas in the hopes that good people will want to adopt and provide homes to the trainful of orphaned children.
How much of our identity comes with a name? Niamh immediately loses her name when she steps off the orphan train. First she is given the name Dorothy. And like Molly, Dorothy lives in several homes, none of which she ever truly belongs. She eventually becomes Vivian, but I won’t ruin the story by telling you how.
I loved listening to the book. Jessica Almasy and Suzanne Toren wonderfully portray these women. Molly’s character is given the right “bite” and sarcasm I would picture her to have. With Vivian, there is an underlying tone of strength and courage that surviving such a life would leave you with.
Of course Vivian’s past is full of many secrets and Molly is able to use modern technology to find answers to some of Vivian’s questions.
Whether you read the book or listen to the audio version, Orphan Train is a novel that is sure to delight you — entertaining and enlightening.
Please check back tomorrow when I will be reviewing In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve.